We're formulating our plan today, for our remaining time here in Nepal (through June 14 when our visa expires), and then more time in India (where our multiple-entry visa expires August 26). We only have, then, about 2 weeks more in Nepal - crazy how fast our 2 months have disappeared! We haven't even been to Kathmandu yet, so it is a good thing that we will return, albeit during the monsoon, for at least one more month. We've heard rumors that a second entry into Nepal, during the same calendar year, is a freebie so long as you spent over 15 days in the country the first time. If not its the same $30 we'd have to pay either way to be in Nepal longer, so we figure we might as well go to India sooner, when the monsoon isn't at its worst - which means it is still unbearably hot, humid, and occasionally very rainy.
This also means that our short term plans are adjusting, since we think it is somewhat redundant to go to Kathmandu twice, this first time for only just a few days, so instead we will, after a few more days in Pokhara (about a week), most likely head to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, in the far south-central area of Nepal. The town is full of temples and monasteries, and is supposed to be a very relaxing place - good preparation for our return to India! Plus we've heard about a voluntary (no time agreement) silent meditation program there, which sounds quite intriguing. Many such programs are a compulsory 10 days, which sounds a bit daunting, and perhaps more quiet than is necessary :-)
Today will be spent doing a microscopic amount of stereo-typical Nepali tourist goods shopping, as well as booking a rafting trip, either one that starts tomorrow if we can luck out, otherwise one beginning on June 4/5, so that we can do the 2/3 day Royal Trek beforehand. Either way is fine, just have to see which way the wind blows us...
Probably have steak again for dinner tonight then, the Pokhara steak phenomenon is a little hilarious - Calcuttan cows are imported to be served to Westerners in the Himalayan mountains - but the beef is quite tasty, affordable, and cooked quite well. We've had several steak and eggs for breakfast (yes, Liz now likes scrambled eggs, at least to some extent - breakfast in the Muth household has instantly improved exponentially!) for $2.50, plus all variety of steak dinners, with the maximum cost being $4. We've discovered different places have different quality cuts of meat, so depending on what you want you can just select which type of restaurant to go to. Just like every "tourist-town," Pokhara has cookie-cutter (or identi-kit) restaurants, that have very similar menus of global cuisine, similar prices - though always with irregularities/oddities, and the same subcontinental-Perkins feel. As in, all the food is pretty good, but it costs a bit more than it really should, but the atmosphere is comforting and familiar. Except here they all serve beer and bottles of spirits (up to 180 ml), too, while I don't think Perkins has included liquor licenses in its business plan...
These restaurants feature Nepali, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Continental, Thai, and American food, all from the same basic set of ingredients, often with inadequate spicing. We are on a constant quest for genuinely spicy food, which although we ask for it at virtually every meal, the amount of return is unfortunately quite low. Most of the food is still delicious though, and compared to American/Western pricing, everything is definitely very cheap and good value (example: face-filling enchilada for under $2, big pot of tea for 75 cents).
Speaking of such restaurants, that's where we are now headed, since it's 2 pm and we're starving!